First Draft Prologue I woke with a start, inhaling as sharply as a man on the verge of drowning. I breathed heavily, short gasping breaths as I looked around me almost frantically. It was dark, but, my eyes were adjusted for that, and I could clearly make out my bedroom. It was dark, even for my heavily shaded apartment, meaning that it was presently night time. I realized I was drenched in sweat. My mind slowly cleared, but it was like there was still a thin film over my brain. Details of the last several hours were blurred. I felt groggy, like I'd just come out of a long hangover fueled sleep. The headache helped my hangover theory. I groaned audibly as I swung my legs over the edge of my bed, moving to stand up, only to collapse to the ground as my legs gave out. i hadn't noticed it before, but, my legs were shaking. What the hell? I pulled myself up, sitting back on the edge of my bed. I was wondering what the deal with that was when a sound caught my ears. It was quiet, faint, like the barest hint of a whisper. A voice, speaking just beyond the edge of hearing. No one was here with me, I was certain of that. "Hello?" I called out cautiously, awaiting any kind of response. The sound stopped briefly, then picked up again for a couple seconds, only to fade out again. I touched my fingers to my temples and groaned again. Every time I heard the sound it was like something was scraping fingernails down my brain. Whatever I drank to make me feel this way, I needed more of it. I waited a few minutes before trying to stand again. This time, I managed to stay upright, and made my way to my restroom. I stopped at the sink, turning on the light to look at myself in the mirror. I almost recoiled at my own reflection. I recognized my face just fine, but, I looked haggard, like I hadn't slept in days. My eyes were sunken and dark, they almost looked glazed over. My hands shook slightly as i supported myself on the sink, leaning closer to the mirror. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something, a shimmer or a quick flurry of movement. With a start I turned to look, seeing nothing before slowly looking back to the mirror, at my own barely recognizable reflection. "What the hell is wrong with me?" I asked myself, rubbing my eyes. I reached downt to turn on the water, splashing some cold water onto my face to try and shake off this horrid half-asleep state. I did feel a little better afterward, looking back up to my reflection. I looked into my own eyes, that glazed over look nearly gone now. The sound from before came back, gnawing at my head. I sighed and put my palm to my forehead, closing my eyes. It was a little louder this time, and if I didn't know any better i'd say it was getting louder. "...listen...me..." The Voice whispered, coming through in pieces, as if it were cutting out due to bad reception. That was it, I was definitely hearing a voice. I looked towards my bedroom, listening as intently as I could. It was dead quiet. I couldn't even hear any cars outside. There was nothing in here with me. I couldn't help but ask myself if I was losing my mind. A sharp pain stabbed into my brain as words exploded into my consciousness, like they were spears jabbing into my head. "...said...listen to me!" The Voice screamed. My vision clouded over, everything around me growing dark as my whole world seemed to spin away from me, out of control. I felt like I was being lifted away from the Earth, like gravity had released it's grip on me. I was weightless, but I couldn't see anything, just darkness all around me. Sounds began to reach me, they were muffled but slowly began to clear. Footsteps, the sound of a gun being cocked. More specifically, a round being chambered in a semi-automatic handgun. The loud cracking of wood, a sound I recognized as a door being kicked in. Then a voice, deep, slightly muffled still. "What the fuck?! Who the hell are you?!" Someone shouted in equal parts rage and surprise. I didn't recognize it, not in the slightest, yet, I felt like I should. Then another voice rang out, sending a shiver down my spine. "You don't know me, but I know you. You killed my wife, you monster, and i'm here to return the favor." A voice commanded, dripping with anger and grief, a voice I recognized as my own. The sound of gunfire erupted, several shots being fired. I counted them, there were nine, an entire magazine, made apparent as the telltale clicking of an empty firearm attempting to discharge. I expected to hear a body hit the ground, but instead all I heard was a deep voice begining to laugh, then a few footsteps towards me. "What...what the fuck..." I heard my voice begin, the shock was intense, I swear I could feel it myself. Along with an almost suffocating sense of dread and fear. "Monster? You don't know how right you are." The man growled, another chuckle sounding as his footsteps grew closer. I could almost swear he was actually approaching me. They stopped, and for a few moments it was frighteningly silent. I was about to speak when I felt a sudden pressure around my neck. I had the sensation of being lifted effortlessly, then slammed back into a wall. It felt like a couple of my ribs broke from the impact. I tried to shout out, but I couldn't. Something had a vice-like grip on my throat. I couldn't breath. The man spoke again, but, I couldn't make out his words. Then another pain, like something was thrust through my chest, it felt like a knife, but larger. The pain was so intense, I thought I may pass out or just die outright, but, I didn't. It lingered, and again, I tried to scream, but to no avail. I felt my body hit the wooden floor. I could feel the blood pouring from my now open chest. I gasped for breath, blood pooling in my mouth as I lay dying on the floor. I'd bleed out in less than thirty seconds at this rate. I was a dead man. I heard the man laugh again before receding footsteps. I remember thinking of my wife, and how much I missed her. I just wanted to avenge her death, to ensure that the scumbag who had mangled her got what he deserved. But... My eyes slowly opened, the pain was gone, but, my head ached still. I looked up, recognizing my restroom, the light was still on, and I was lying on the tile floor. I slowly sat upright, an undoubtedly bewildered look on my face. What just happened? Did I pass out and have a nightmare? it was so real. The pain was so vivid. I put my hand to my chest where I had felt whatever it was impale me. I could feel a patch of skin that felt abnormally smooth, like a fresh scar. I quickly stood up, looking at my chest in the mirror. Sure enough, in the same spot, was a long pink scar, about six inches long. I could panic rising within me, filling me to my core. I wanted to scream, I wanted to break down and weep, but I just couldn't bring myself to do either. Between the confusion, the shock of it all, and this ever growing sense of dread, no reaction really seemed fitting enough. The Voice from before, that strange whisper crawled back into my skull, more clear this time. "Do you remember now?" The Voice whispered in a chiding tone. I could swear someone was talking to me, a smokey almost hissing sound. I didn't know how to respond. I was hearing voices now? I really had lost my mind. The grief had finally caught up to me. "I...what? Remember what?" I muttered out loud. If I was crazy, ignoring the voice probably wouldn't help much. If I wasn't, well, I really didn't want to have to feel it scream in my head again. Not after that last trip. I could sense irritation in the Voice as it growled softly in my head, responding slowly. "You heard it, didn't you? You felt it?" The Voice questioned. It almost sounded like it was talking down to me the way a parent does a child who just doesn't understand. I thought for a moment, looking at my reflection in the mirror, my eyes immediately going back to the scar. I touched it tentatively again, nodding slowly. "I...yeah. I did. What was that? What happened?" My voice came out in gasps at first. I had to make a conscious effort to get my voice under control, to return it to the usual depth and tone. A strange hissing sound rolled through my head, that smokey sounding voice seeming to grow louder briefly. If I didn't know any better, I would guess the Voice was laughing at my confusion. Something I certainly didn't appreciate. "I had to remind you somehow. You forgot, and you just wouldn't listen." The Voice muttered, in an obviously condescending tone. My confusion flared again and I shook my head, looking at myself in the mirror. It was strange enough, but, I almost felt like I was talking to my own reflection. Of course, the voice was clearly in my head, which only made it worse. Talking to yourself is one thing, but, only crazy people actually answer themselves. "What? Make sense, damn it. What did I forget?" I responded angrily. I was growing far beyond tired of this nonsense, and I hated it when people were purposely avoiding questions. When you work in criminal investigation, you get accustomed to it, but, it never really stops being annoying. People have a way of skirting around the truth. After another hissing laugh, the voice responded coldly; "Isn't it obvious? He killed you. That was the moment of your death. You're a dead man, Liam Althaus."